The review of the controversial piece —
Cuties, Netflix review: a provocative powder-keg for an age terrified of child sexuality — was penned by Tim Robey, one of the newspaper’s regularly published film critics.
While writers often do not pen their own headlines, Robey cannot resort to this time-worn excuse, with the contentious phrase being lifted directly from his copy: “This is powder-keg provocation in an age so terrified of child sexuality,” he
writes, in reference to the lead character “acting out because of her father’s betrayal, and unwilling to follow her mother – who’s secretly devastated – down the path of demure submission to the patriarchy.”
Whether there ever was an age when people were not “terrified” by “child sexuality” — and whether such an age would be considered anything less than irretrievably corrupted — is not elucidated, with Robey waving the controversy around the film aside as a “moral panic”.
The “betrayal” referenced by Robey is the decision by the main character’s father — who is Muslim — to take a second wife.
“Her rebellion is defiantly flaunting herself, and thanks to some brazen invites from the film’s camerawork, the routines she masterminds tend to make the male gaze curl up in horror,” Robey suggests, referring to the highly sexualised “twerking” dance routines the main character and her troupe of underage pre-teen dancers engage in.
Robey does not directly address one of the major complaints of the film’s critics, however; namely that the “male gaze” of paedophiles will likely “curl up” in delight rather than horror at the routines — or, as Breitbart’s John Nolte
puts it: “ Cuties is soft-core child pornography disguised as art. Nothing less. Nothing more.”
While Robey tries to justify
Cuties‘ “risque” content by arguing that its “very subject is the disturbing, premature sexualisation of young girls in French society” — the film is set in multicultural France — its detractors argue that this phenomenon is not actually portrayed in a particularly negative light.
“Cuties does not tell 11-year-old girls that twerking and sexualization sets you on a path of self-debasement, that it destroys your self-respect and the respect others might have for you — especially in the age of the Internet,” explained Nolte in the
“For our protagonist, 11-year-old Ami, twerking is the path to enlightenment and personal growth… at the end, thanks to all the sex stuff, all the butt-shaking and crotch shots, Ami is liberated, independent, and better off.”
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